What’s coming up for Sunday’s weekly column:
Ken Fang over at AwfulAnnouncing.com decided it was time do draw up a list.
Since Bill Simmons has pretty much been wiped clean of the World Wide Leader in Sports — he was replaced this week by Chris Connelly as the interim Editor-in-Chief of Grantland.com, although the website continues to archive his stuff — it must be asked: Who stands next in line to be considered to the face of ESPN?
Because, “over the last five years, one could successfully argue that Bill Simmons was the star of ESPN,” Fang writes, without needing to note that Simmons made it to the No. 36 spot in the LA News Group’s recent 50 Most Powerful in L.A. Sports. “Now as ESPN goes deeper into the 21st Century, who will be that one person who can be most synonymous with the four letter network?”
For as much as the public looks at the network, this might be something of a flawed premise, since ESPN management does its best to make sure that no one person is bigger than the company. Not Berman, Olbermann, Patrick, Vitale …
The face of ESPN, for all intents and purposes, is someone in the leadership role like a George Bodenheimer, or, currently, John Skipper.
Never the less, and alphabetically, Fang floated the names: Skip Bayless, Michelle Beadle, Jay Bilas, John Buccigross, Colin Cowherd (who is a genius according to Dan Levy), Rece Davis, Chris Fowler, Dan Shulman, Stephen A. Smith, Scott Van Pelt and …
One more ….
“Another controversial choice,” Fang writes of that last one, “we put him here as he gets ready to launch ‘The Undefeated,’ which ESPN hopes to provide as much gravitas as Grantland. While we’ve heard of some bumps in the road for the launch, perhaps things can turn around and Whitlock can become a true leader of the site. We’ll see. And can he become a face of ESPN? As Kevin Garnett said, anything’s possible.”
Anything except this, we’re guessing. We just don’t get the sense that’s what Whitlock is going after here following our sit-down with The Undefeated’s editor in chief from his ESPN L.A. offices this week. The official launch of the site comes soon, but some things need to be put into place. It’s a process, one that Whitlock admits he’s coming at from a different angle of leadership.
He talked about that recently with Jeffrey Fox, author of “How to Become a Great Boss.”
We also caught up with Mike Wise, the former Washington Post columnist who just got back from South Africa to pursue a story idea that The Undefeated sent him on — look for his piece on Josia Thugwane, the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games marathon winner who was first black athlete to earn an Olympic gold for that country.
As @MikeWiseguy tweeted this week:
Took another tour of @TheUndefeated. Good nucleus. Lot of heart, talent. Nice facilities. Decent workout room. Glad I signed.
— Mike Wise (@MikeWiseguy) May 28, 2015
What’s worth inserting here for more thorough consumption:
== As for Connelly, whose work we have admired going back to his “My Wish” series for SportsCenter nearly 10 years ago and even further back when he came on as the host of an “Up Close” spinoff called “Unscripted” in 2001 over at the ESPN Orange County studios, the man often known more for music and pop culture reporting would seem to be a natural fit to replace Simmons.
“Bill Simmons had the vision to create Grantland, and his leadership, ideas, and inspiration made it singularly great,” said Connelly. “I’m looking forward to helping the writers, editors, and producers on this amazingly talented staff create more of the outstanding work for which they’ve rightly become known.”
Marie Donoghue, ESPN’s exec VP of global strategy and original content, says Connelly will “build on the smart, fun, adventurous, creative, unexpected and vital spirit of Grantland.”
ESPN points out as well that Grantland had its most traffic ever in the month of April going back to its 2011 launch.
Connelly has been working on ABC’s “20/20” and other news programs covering pop culture and other features. He was at MTV for more than 12 years prior to coming to ESPN in 2001 and wrote for Rolling Stone and Premiere.
== There’s a movie out, financed by FIFA, about FIFA?
== Games of note as the ESPN first-ever, all 16-site coverage of the NCAA baseball regionals begin today:
= UCLA vs. Cal State Bakersfield from UCLA’s Jackie Robinson Stadium, tonight at 8 p.m., ESPNU with Clay Matvick and Mike Rooney (plus Tim Wilhelm and John Ramey at UCLABruins.com). Win or lose, UCLA plays either Ole Miss or Maryland on Saturday, TBA
= USC vs. Virginia at Lake Elsinore, today at 3 p.m., ESPN3, with Trey Bender and Jay Walker calling it. Win or lose, USC plays either UC Santa Barbara or San Diego State on Saturday, TBA.
= Pepperdine vs. Cal State Fullerton at CSF, today at 8 p.m., ESPN3, with Roxy Bernstein and Randy Flores. Win or lose, Pepperdine plays either Clemson or Arizona State on Saturday, TBA.
If either UCLA, USC or Pepperdine wins its first two games, it has a game to play Sunday as well as possibly Monday to try to advance to the Super Regionals.
There are a potential 112 first-round games in this part of the regionals. Nomar Garciaparra will depart from his role with the Dodgers’ SportsNet L.A. to work on the ESPN coverage in the later rounds.
The possibility remains that if UCLA and USC emerge from these regionals, they could face off in a Super Regional starting next week.
Of the 16 analysts who work this ESPN-covered event, either UCLA and LSU were favored by 15 of them to reach the final. One of the analysts ESPN has been using is Wes Clements, who last managed the Houston Astros’ Single-A Lancaster team and is a Hawthorne High graduate who played at El Camino College and was on Arizona’s 1980 World Series winning team.
== UCLA’s forway into the Women’s College World Series continues today with a 6:30 p.m. game against Michigan on ESPN. The Bruins have at least two more games going forward in the double-elimination event after winning the opener against Oregon. ESPN has two broadcast teams for this event: Beth Mowins, Jessica Mendoza, Michele Smith and Holly Rowe are scheduled to do the UCLA-Michigan game; Adam Amin, Amanda Scarborough and Laura Rutledge handle the afternoon games. ESPN continues with four games on Saturday (9 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.), and two of the four Sunday (10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., with the 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. games on ESPNU) to determine the final two. They play in the best-of-three championship starting Monday at 5 p.m. (ESPN2) and continuing Tuesday (5 p.m., ESPN) and Wednesday if necessary (5 p.m., ESPN).
== Bob Papa, Lanny Wadkins and Notah Begay are the top voices as Golf Channel has coverage of the NCAA Division I men’s golf championship from Bradenton, Fla., on Monday through Wednesday. UCLA (at the Sagamore Club in Noblesville, Ind.) and USC (at the Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, Wash.) are among the final 30 teams playing in regionals that begin today.
== And if that’s not enough, UCLA also competes in the 20-team, seven-on-a-side Collegiate Rugby Championship this weekend in Philadelphia, which gets coverage on Saturday at noon (Channel 4, preliminary rounds) and at 1:30 p.m. (NBCSN), then Sunday at 11 a.m. (NBCSN) and 1 p.m. (Channel 4) of the final. Mike Corey, Brian Hightower and Tracy Wilson are on the call. The field includes defending champion Cal, Arizona, Air Force, Navy, Notre Dame, Boston College and Penn State. Again, this version of Rugby Sevens will return to the Olympics with the Summer Games in Rio in 2016, with most of the players on the U.S. National Team playing in this event.
== Circle back to earlier this week when San Diego went to Anaheim to face the Angels, and Padres play-by-play man Dick Enberg, about to go into the Baseball Hall of Fame broadcasters’ wing this summer, met up with Angels counterparts Victor Rojas and Mark Gubicza to talk about his days behind the mike for Gene Autry’s franchise. If you move along to the 1:30 mark, listen to Enberg talk about the joy he has had in calling a no-hitter. Maybe that will sink in to the Rojas-Gubicza approach from here on?
== In light of the Dodgers’ pending addition to the Charter Cable company subscribers — available primarily to residents in Thousand Oaks, Malibu, West Covina, Long Beach and Glendale/Burbank — we’ve been asked again if we could pinpoint the more popular sports bars and restaurants around Southern California that added Time Warner Cable to their DirecTV systems so that the Dodgers’ games this season can be viewed at their establishments.
Aside from this list compiled at the start of the year by KPCC-FM, and one by Dodgerbeat.com, our go-to sites have been the Redondo Beach Cafe in Redondo Beach, The Avenue A Bar and Grill in Redondo Beach, Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, the Red Car Brewery in Torrance, Grunions or Shellbacks in Manhattan Beach, Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood, The 901 near USC, The Dugout in Simi Valley and Soup’s Grill in Woodland Hills.
But that’s just us on a limited food-drink-dessert budget.
Still, no timetable set in Charter’s promise to add SportsNet LA to its menu, which isn’t as simple as a CEO making a proclamation and having it come true. Charter, remember, was one of many companies that stood against adding the channel because of rising costs to subscribers. Now, all of the sudden, it’s on board?
== Joe Buck, Tom Verducci, Harold Reynolds and Ken Rosenthal are on the Fox broadcast of what may look and sound like a Dodgers’ playoff game at St. Louis on Saturday (4:15 p.m., Channel 11). Meanwhile, ESPN has its Dan Shulman-Curt Schilling-John Kruk trio for the Angels’ Sunday night game against visiting Detroit (5:05 p.m., ESPN2).
The “Sunday Night Baseball” schedule coming up has also been revised to include the Dodgers playing host to St. Louis on June 7 and against San Francisco on Father’s Day June 21. The Angels also play at home against Boston on July 19. There is still “TBD” on June 14 and July 5.
== Matt Millen, the former Raiders linebacker who was one of the great finds by CBS, then Fox,when they gave him chance to do live NFL games upon his retirement, is returning to the L.A.-based Fox for a multi-level duties. The unabashed Penn State grad will call games at the Big Ten Network (co-owned by Fox) as well as go on Fox Sports 1 to be a college and NFL analyst on various studio shows. Millen left broadcasting in 2001 to become the team president of the Detroit Lions, which he somehow held until 2008 and was immediately hired by ESPN.
== Maybe it’s not such earthshaking news — ESPN.com got all over a story about how two economics professors produced evidence that the point spread in college football games plays a significant role in viewing interest, at times producing 30 percent spikes in TV ratings on noncompetitive games.
But now that it’s been quantified in numbers, does it make sense? What’s the over/under on another story disproving this theory?
== HBO and NFL Films have announced that, whether or not coach Bill O’Brien is on board or not, the Houston Texans will be the targets of the “Hard Knocks: Training Camp” all-access series that debuts on August 11 with one-hour shows airing each Tuesday through Sept. 8. This is the 10th season for the series, having launched by covering Baltimore in 2001. Dallas (2002) followed, with a break before Kansas City did it in 2007, Dallas in 2008, Cincinnati in 2009, the New York Jets in 2010, Miami in 2012, Cincinnati in 2013 and Atlanta in 2014.
== Falling in line with what’s been going on with other media companies trying to produce evergreen programming, the formation of NBC Sports Films was announced this week as a division that will produce sports documentaries that will air on NBC, NBCSN, NBC Sports Regional Networks and NBC Sports Digital. The first project is “Center of Attention: The Unreal Life of Derek Sanderson” that premieres June 8 after Game 3 of the upcoming Stanley Cup Final.
“You should watch this documentary on Derek Sanderson” says the headline on a story posted recently on ProHockeyTalk.com, a website owned by NBC Sports.
NBC never thought about having this film division formed while it was once busy cranking out extended features during the last decades of the Olympics?
Thanks, but we read the book on Sanderson’s life just last fall and that’s good enough for us at this point.
== Tom Hammond, Ato Boldon, Lewis Johnson, Craig Masback, Dan O’Brien and Todd Harris are at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., to call the 2015 Prefontaine Classic on Saturday (starting at 12:30 p.m. on NBCSN and then at 1:30 p.m. on Channel 4). Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of Prefontaine’s death.
== Martin Tyler, Stewart Robson and Brad Fiedel have the call from Wembley Stadium for the FA Cup final between Arsenal and Aston Villa on Saturday (9 a.m., Channel 11). From the Fox L.A. studios, Rob Stone, Alexi Lalas, Eric Wynalda and Warren Barton have the analysis.
== We couldn’t remember our own phone number as a kid growing up in L.A., but we knew the phone number for the Olympic Auditorium, because Dick Lane wouldn’t stop repeating it on TV — Richmond 9-5171.
A T-shirt with that famous number might alone be worth diving into a Kickstarter.com campaign by a group called the Olympic Auditorium Project, trying to raise $60,000 in its next round of funding by Friday, June 5 for continued production of a documentary about the old L.A. venue famous for boxing, wrestling, roller derby and the sort.
Steve DeBro, who created The Olympic Auditorium Project, is listed as the documentary’s director.
The place we once labeled as No. 8 on our Top 50 list of most important Southern California sports venues most deservedly could use some historic preservation by any medium available these days.
== Justin Alderson and Milena Glusac describe the CIF Southern Section Track and Field Masters Meet on Friday from Cerritos College on FoxSports.com’s Prep Zone starting at 6 p.m. The broadcast is also available on iPhone and Android devices.
== And finally: How former Oakland Tribune sportswriter Ron Bergman has been remembered upon his passing at age 80.